After a month of vague corporate comments from Microsoft executives, we now know the Xbox One's game licensing policy was written from the ground up for companies. It's aggressively anti-consumer and anti-middle class, and it outright ignores underprivileged gamers. It's gross, despicable, greedy, pathetic, cowardly and out of touch with a growing global resentment for corporations.
Microsoft has designed a policy by committee, with that committee representing the interests of large video game publishers and retailers, and internet providers. "Participating retailers" have the privilege to be the exclusive resellers of games, torpedoing the consumer-to-consumer resale market, while third-party publishers have the option to restrict the resale of games entirely.
As speculated for months, we now know for a fact all owners of the Xbox One will be required to have an internet connection, so that their new console can ping Microsoft every 24 hours, alerting the mother brain as to whether or not the child's been caught stealing from the cookie jar. If a relationship is built on trust, then Microsoft sucks at relationships.
The Xbox One is out of touch with a growing global resentment for corporations
You have limited rights, despite being the theoretical owner of the hardware and software. You can't rent games; you can't trade games; you can't resell games, at least not without sharing a cut with Microsoft's favored retailers.
Microsoft has girded itself from criticism with puny asterisks, like the one-time option to give a game, and the needlessly perplexing family share plan. Both asterisks are themselves asterisked by Microsoft's reserved right to modify or outright strip these rights at a later date, should the company see fit.
The thinly masked intention of this policy is to have an advantage over the consumer, to control how they play games, where they buy games and for how much. The policy shrewdly restricts competition by annihilating entire alternative marketplaces like eBay, rental shops and person-to-person trading or sharing. Without competition we can assume static and high prices. Why can we assume that? Because each time Microsoft's approached a road diverged in a yellow wood, they've chosen the one that makes them and select partners the most money.
If you're low on money, you're out of luck.
Let's say you have money, though. You can afford the console, controllers, games, internet and Xbox Live. Are your living arrangements fit for gaming on the Xbox One?
The "1.5 Mbps" necessary for a comfortable experience is nothing to blush at. For cloud computing (expected to be mandatory for Respawn Entertainment's Xbox One and PC shooter Titanfall) the bandwidth requirement may be higher. Assuming your internet connection still handles that speed, what about the other people in your home who'd like to use the internet? If you have one person downloading videos on a computer or two people surfing on laptops, what sort of reliability can you expect from the Xbox One cloud service?
As a teenager, going on the internet meant asking everyone else to stay off the phone. Off the stated policy, I wonder if playing the Xbox One means asking everyone in my home to stay off the internet.
I've seen one recurring defense of the policy.
Will playing the Xbox One mean asking everyone in my home to stay off the internet?
Some commentators have compared the Xbox One's internet-connection and used-game policies to PC gaming. And sure, the Xbox One does appear to share the worst parts of PC gaming: obtrusive DRM from AAA publishers; complex if not impossible methods for sharing games; the need for an internet connection to play some games, connect to some digital merchants and ping some third-party servers.
But the Xbox One policy doesn't share the good aspects of PC gaming. PC games can be given away by developers. PC games can be sold without DRM. There are alternative retailers, allowing the consumer to choose where he or she buys from. And because there is choice, there is competition, and because there is competition, there is competitive pricing.
On PC, you can "donate" to the Humble Bundle and choose precise amounts of cash to award a game's creator. On PC, you can play alpha builds of games that are months if not years from completion, and participate in some capacity in that game's development. On PC, publishers are free to do all of the awful things offered by the Xbox One. But they're also free to do things that are responsible and consumer-friendly.
PC publishers are free to be consumer-hostile or consumer-friendly
One additional thing that doesn't pertain to Xbox One's policy per se, but the system itself. A PC is compatible with a massive catalogue of over two decades' worth of games. An Xbox One is not. Never have the words fresh start sounded so awful.
Xbox One's policy, as it stands, includes all of the burdensome aspects of PC gaming and none of the best.
Next week, I will visit the Electronic Entertainment Expo, the annual celebration of video games' biggest corporations. Microsoft will be hosting a lavish press conference to further acquaint the world with its new system. But the company's executives won't be meeting with much of the press. They canceled their post-press conference interviews, all of them as best I can tell, and have even canceled some interviews at the show itself. I understand. They probably couldn't fit everyone in between all the CEOs they have to meet with.
Microsoft is married to business now. They don't have time for consumers anymore.
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